Monday, May 23, 2011

We have an update on Nate's plants. It's been a tough road for them. We start 25 seeds. About 8 survived to be planted. The corn never sprouted and the cats ate the leaves off the bean plants. Several of the plants did not survive outside. Our yard is very uneven and dry, making it hard to make sure they get adequate water, even with a drip hose. We are now down to two plants and are keeping our fingers crossed for them to continue to grow.

Here is Nate's update, his words in green. The hose is watering the plant. There are holes in the hose. This one has big leaves. It is a new plant. This plant still has it's first leaves. I planted more seeds when we lost the outside plants, hoping to have more survivors.
This one is older. It has smaller leaves. It's a different plant. This is the only remaining plant from our original inside planting. Joshua stepped on it this weekend. So, we are really keeping our fingers crossed that it hangs in there. I think both of the remaining plants are pumpkins.

We tried to turn them different colors. We used food coloring in water. I bought a bouquet of white carnations to make the corsage and boutonniere for Shawn's prom. We decided to experiment with the rest.

In a little while the flowers started to change colors. Why did they change color? The food coloring made them change. Remember what the stem does? The stem is like a straw. The stem sucks the water up to the flower part. Here are the carnations after being in the colored water over night.

Since we got very little color change in the carnations. We decided to try it with some fresh cut white roses from our back yard.

They started changing very quickly. They are a different kind of flower so they got more of the water to the flower part. Actually, I think the carnations were very dry when I got them and even thought I re-cut the ends, they did not suck up much water. The fresh cut roses starting pulling up water right away. We talked about this possibility.

Here are the roses after being in the colored water overnight.

We will continue to update on the plants periodically (as long as they continue to grow). But, we are not moving on to our next science project. ROCKS! Watch for the first installment...coming soon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nate completed the CAT/5 test yesterday and we got it in the mail for scoring. Today was a great day for a field trip. We visited Bravo Farms Cheese Factory in Traver, CA, just south of Kingsburg. They make cheese on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So, today we got to watch them make cheese. Nate will illustrate the process (in blue) and I will fill in the details.
That's the milk getting mixed. This vat holds 800 gallons of milk. Culture (bacteria) and salt is added to the milk. It is stirred slowly for a couple of hours as small curds are formed. We had lunch (and visited the gift shop and ice cream shop) in between checking the progress of the cheese.

That's the milk when it's acting like Jell-o. As the curd formed, they used these to cut the curd into small pieces. What you cannot see is the this wires about 1/4 inch apart. They cut the curd in both directions.

That's the milk getting drained. They drained the liquid from the curds. The liquid is called whey. Now you (and I) know what curds and whey is.

That's them stacking the curd up. After the whey is drained, they stir the curds to get as much liquid out as possible.

That's the curd when it was completely drained. They packed the curds along the sides and squeezed out more liquid. Then they cut the curds into chunks and moved them to another container to dry further.

Those are stacks of curd in the tub. The chunks are turned periodically to allow them to dry more.

They were cutting the curd up. Then the chop the curds up into small pieces. They gave us some cheese curds to taste at this point. It was a bit salty and had the texture of mozzarella, although it was white cheddar. I guess it needs to age for full flavor.

They were putting the curd in the boxes. They put the curd in these boxes, then put them in a hydraulic press that compressed the curds into 40 pound blocks of cheese.

The cheese factory also has this awesome tree house. You can go in and climb all the way to the top floor. The staircases inside were quite narrow. But, I managed. It was really neat.

There was also a lot of old farm and dairy equipment. This wagon was cool.

Definitely a fun field trip and close to home. I think we will this again sometime, maybe when Jacob is on vacation. It will be fun for him too. We brought home some fresh cheese and some chocolate treats. You can't go wrong with that!

Friday, April 22, 2011

We are officially on spring break here, to coincide with Jacob's. It just makes things easier. But, that doesn't mean that learning stops for either of them. On Wednesday, we went to the zoo. I often think of Nate as my little monkey. He has always been a climber. His hands are smaller that the orangutan, but well shaped for swinging and climbing.
This baby addax was born on Sunday, the 17th. According to the zookeeper's note, there are only 300 addaxes in the world. The are very endangered. Mama kept nnudging the baby to get up and walk around.

Nate gets a "giraffe's eye" view of things.

The giraffes are some of my favorite animals.

This is one of the coolest, and most intact, snake skins I have ever seen. If you look closely at one end you can see the head. It looks like the mouth is open.

This looks like the photo should be turned. But, this lizard was hanging on with his back legs and reaching out for the leaves. It was kind of funny to watch.

Something new we learned on this trip: the difference between a legless lizard and a snake.

Then we had lunch and fed the ducks.

We did not realize at first that this one was nesting. She let us know real quick to stay back. Being in such an open area I hope all goes well for her and her babies.

We finished our day with train ride. This train has been around since I was Nate's age and was always part our family outings to the zoo.

We had a great outing. It seemed a lot of animals were feeling sluggish this day. It is just starting to warm up. It was neat to see nesting ducks (and other birds in the aviary) and new babies. We also got a glimpse of anteaters mating. I did not explain this to Nate. We'll save that for another trip. But, I love spring!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It has been three and half weeks since we started out plant project. I had intended to plant these outside sooner. But we have had some crazy weather. And when the weather has been nice we have been crazy busy. We are officially on spring break now. But, today seemed like a good day to plant our plants before we lost them indoors, especially the ones not planted in soil. Here again is Nate's recap of our experience (in blue). There's four plants in there. They each have roots. I can see leaves on all four. These plants were growing up and out of the ziploc bags. It has been pretty cool to see.

The popcorn never did grow and we have about 50% success on the 20 other seeds we planted. There are five rows of different plants. Some have bigger leaves than the others. The pumpkin vine has big leaves. The watermelon has the smallest I can see. The cat ate the leaves off the bean plants. I hope they will recover.

Since dad was home today, I asked him to help with planting the plants outside. I dug holes and put the plants in them. I used some water to soften up the ground to dig a hole.

I ceremoniously helped dig the first hole, before heading out to run some errands. This is not my usual gardening attire. Me and Mom were digging a hole to plant some plants.

When I returned, I asked Nate about his plants. Dad let him choose where to plant them, so they are randomly placed in the yard. But, it's ok, our yard is a mess right now anyway. (Digging half of it up for plumbing issues, but that's on the other blog.) I planted a pumpkin there. I watered it. We have really dry ground here. We are going to really have to remember to water these every day.

I planted a pumpkin here too.

I am watering some plants.

This is also a soaker hose when you cap the end. So, we left it running for a while to saturate the ground and hopefully soften it up so that the roots can grow. We will keep posting as our plants (hopefully) grow. Summers here are brutal. Be here's hoping for a nice juicy watermelon!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Week 2: Sprouts We explored our plants on Tuesday, two weeks after planting, but did not have time to blog. Last time, I have Nate write about what he saw. This time I typed his words for each photo and we actually get to "hear" more of what he sees and thinks. Again, his words are in blue. It's a lima bean seed with a root. It has a leaf. The end of the vine looks brown. I see lots of roots. The roots are white. I can see a starting of the vine. It's a pumpkin vine. I see a leaf.
It's a pinto bean. It has roots. The roots are white. I can see some green.
I can only see one root. I can see the seed. I can see a tiny bit of green (pointing to tip opposite the root). I just can't believe that the tiny can become a vine with a few watermelons.
We compared the lima bean sprout and the pumpkin seed sprout. I asked him to tell me how they are different and why he thinks they are. I can see more roots on the pumpkin seed than the lima bean. Why do you think the roots are different? The seeds are different sizes. Different seeds have different roots and the different roots make different plants.

What does the root do for the plant? Transports nutrients. And? water? Does one need more water than the other? I think he's getting the idea.

As of last week, none of our "planted in soil" plants has sprouted. This week we have sprouts! We currently have one lima plant, two pinto bean plants and two watermelon plants.
Still no popcorn. I guess that's what Mom gets for not buying plain old popcorn to plant. Its supposed to rain the next couple of days. I think early next week we will plant all of our sprouts and see how it goes. Keep checking in. Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy our own home grown watermelons this summer and carve a home grown jack-o-lantern this Halloween.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This week, we started on a new project. We are going to learning about plants and growing things. My plan is to intigrate this project into all of the curriculum areas: science (obviously), reading/writing and math. You may recall that Nate DOES NOT like to write. Today, i asked him to share by illustrating the photos in the blog. His words will be in blue. I will then elaborate, if needed. Monday we opened seeds up, planted seeds. I saw a leaf in a seed. I traced each seed. We looked inside the seeds only 3 had a leaf. We explored 5 different beans/seeds, pinto, lima, pumpkin, watermelon and popcorn. I had Nate trace them. Then we opened them up to see what was inside. Some had little bitty leaves. Then Nate drew pictures on what he saw inside. I put them in a bag. We put wet paper towels and one of each type of seed in in three ziploc bags. We did not seal them. We put them in the window. The bags worked like a greenhouse for our seeds.
I put them in some soil. We used some of Papa's cafe. I found this cool planter at Target. It made of biodegradable material. After they sprout indoors we can separate the squares and plant the whole thing outside. We planted 5 of each of the 5 seeds. Papa was teasing Nate when we was watering them about pouring his coffee on them. So one row, we decided to "water" with coffee to see what happens. we'll keep you posted.
Today (Friday) we looked at the seeds in the plastic bags. (We have checked on them each day, but wanted to up date today). This is one of our lima beans. It has quite a sprout and some pretty good size leaves peeking out already.
This is one of our pumpkin seeds. we are hoping to grow our own pumpkins for Halloween this year. The sprout on this one has some neat "segmentation" (is that a word?). We are going to have to look that up.
Here is one of our pinto beans, just starting to sprout.
So far, the watermelon seeds and the popcorn have not sprouted. I'm not sure we will have any success with the popcorn. I snagged it from a microwave popcorn bag and I'm afraid it might have been smothered by whatever else was in there. But, we'll see. That's the fun of experimenting.

Check in often. I plan to update weekly on our plant project. We will be doing some other fun plant experiments along the way.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We are back where we started from with regards to homeschooling Nate. When I pulled Nate out of public school in December, I picked up a few workbooks with grade level appropriate reading comprehension problems and math. I didn't want my academically advanced 2nd grader to fall into an educational abyss due to my lack of preparedness for teaching him at home. So, this is what we used to fill in the gap between Christmas vacation and getting a spot within the homeschool charter.
I felt better using a charter because: 1. All of the materials that I needed to teach him "the right stuff" for his grade would be available to me, 2. It kept me accountable to make sure he was getting his school work done. We are NOT on perpetual vacation here. and 3. He could take the state standardized test and I could track to see that he is still ahead of the majority of kids his age in the public school system. Translation: I am not screwing him up academically.
We've been with the charter for almost two months. The first was ok. The second made me realize this is not the way to homeschool Nate. The charter prescribes EVERYTHING. Right down to the number of problems to do on each page. I pulled Nate out of public school because it was not working. My intent was NOT to bring the public school into our home. (Alot has changed since I homeschooled Joshua with a charter 10 years ago.) There was no time to bring Nate's interests into our schooling. If he did something extra, I could not turn it in to the "teacher." And I could not tweak assignments to make the "Nate friendly."
So, last week we filed the affidavit to create our own private school in our own home. This is California's way of allowing parents to teach their children what and how they want. This is how we were doing it in those first few weeks with Nate. And we enjoyed it so much more.
Today: We rolled dice and multiplied them.

And we made pictures with graph coordinates.

Today, Nate had fun learning. And I did too. I think we are once again on the right track for homeschooling Nate. I also bought a couple more workbooks for Language, and he still doesn't like to do that part. But, at least it isn't an all day process to get everything done, because he enjoys more of it. Check back and see what other fun stuff we are up to, as we learn together in this crazy adventure of Homeschooling Nate.